Dale Harrison

  • Instrument

    Drums, Piano, Songwriter

  • Location

    Toronto, ON

  • Education

    University of Ottawa, Humber College

Biography Dale Harrison

This week we spotlight a guy who I have had only a few musical run in’s with over the years! He gigs with quite a few musicians I have gigged with and remain friends with from years past. I have also seen The Headstones a few times and was always impressed by the energy and honesty of their performances. Please enjoy our Artist Spotlight on drummer and songwriter, Dale Harrison!

Dale Harrison has always loved drumming. His passion for hitting things grew when he won his audition to be the bongo player in a production of The Little Drummer Boy when he was just 8 years old. Inspired by the likes of Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Steve Gadd, Keith Moon, Stewart Copeland, John Bonham, and many more, these influences have helped him craft a style that has enabled him to tour worldwide with many great artists; Headstones, Alannah Myles, Phil X (Bon Jovi), Derek St Holmes (the voice of Ted Nugent Band, Whitford/St. Holmes), and Derek Miller. He’s also been able to secure endorsements with Yamaha drums, Sabian Cymbals, Regal Tip Sticks and Remo drum heads.

Dale was recruited by the Headstones in 1994, and his inaugural album with the band was Teeth and Tissue, released in 1995. The Headstones broke more ground in 1996 with Juno Award nominations for Best Group and Best Rock Album, while releasing Smile and Wave that same year. Three years passed before Nickels for Your Nightmares was released, in which time Carr and Harrison became fathers and Dillon recovered from a drug addiction.  Throughout their time together The Headstones had 3 Gold and 3 Platinum albums as well as 10 Indie recordings.

Dale studied at The University of Ottawa & graduated from the Humber College music program in Toronto.

Other side projects include:

– Three movies: Prince For A Day, Curtis’s Charm and Johnny.
– Played roles in T.V. shows such as: Degrassi, Instant Star, Rez Blues Canada AM award Shows and Women’s Survival Guide to the Universe
– Co-host of Ghosts, Guitars and Rockstars

When and why did you start playing?

I started playing drums at 8 years old. I got a child’s, Muppet style kit at that time which I did destroy within a year. I managed to save the sticks so I could play on the furniture until I convinced my mother to enroll me into lessons at age 12 to prove I was into playing enough to get a “Real” 5 pc Ludwig acrylic drum set at 13.

What was the first song(s) you learned?

My first songs were Strutter, by Kiss, Rocky Mountain Way by Triumph & You Really Got Me by  Van Halen… it was 1979.

Has music education played a role in your development as a musician and drummer? Did you go to school for music at a college or university?

Yes it has! I studied privately from 1979 to 1986 off and on with the late Lorne Kelly in Ottawa. Lorne passed away in 2009. My sincerest condolences to his family and friends. In 1986 went to The University of Ottawa part –time taking musical theory to help my get into Humber College Jazz program. After gaining acceptance I graduated the 3-year Percussion program in 1990. I learned a lot while there including how to play all styles of music on drums, multi-percussion, keyboards, write songs and small band arranging. This was invaluable to my future endeavors!

Which musicians do you admire and why?

I have admiration for people who are really good at their craft!  Such as, the late, John Bonham & Keith Moon. Steve Gadd, Stewart Copeland, Bill Buford, Alex Van Halen, Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl plus, Dave Grohl and Phil Collins just to name drummers/songwriters that I love!! That list can go on for quite sometime, so I will stop there; just because!!

If you had to recommend a great song by a band or artist, what would it be and why?

I guess you’re asking me what my favorite song is and why? I think that has to be one of the hardest questions one could ask another musician. I love a lot of music, all of which I think has merit to be a contender for a recommendation. Hotel California – Eagles, Joe’s Garage – Frank Zappa, One  – Metallica, A Day In The Life – The Beatles, Sympathy for the Devil – Rolling Stones, Gotta Match – Chick Corea.  You see what I mean? It’s impossible for me to have a “favorite song”. I think all good music has its place in one’s life, placed at a different level of importance depending on the time it speaks loudest at that particular time in one’s life.

What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? In your neighborhood or town? Around the world?

My memories are scattered throughout the years. My first gig at my High School Tea House talent show in 1982. The band was called “Electric Angel”. We played some [Led] Zeppelin, [Black] Sabbath, The Who and Van Halen. It’s what all the rock[ing] and rolling kids wanted to play at that time! I also really enjoyed playing EdgeFest in Barrie, Ontario with Headstones back in 2000! 50 thousand plus people!! It was incredible to see yourself on a jumbo screen 4 stories tall!! Oh yeah, I remember also playing a concert with Alannah Myles in Umea, Sweden in 2009, which was just amazing! So yes there are few stellar fond memories.

How do you balance your music career with your other obligations?

I just try to fit everything in. Family first, but money has to come in to support family, so work has to happen. It’s not rocket science; everyone does it no matter what you do for a living. I’m just lucky enough to be doing what I love to do!

Do you get nervous before a performance? How do you deal with mistakes during a live performance?

Yes, I do get nervous sometimes,  and other times not so much. Mistakes happen,  and remembering that will help you get through anything. If it happens live, it usually happens so fast that by the time you think about what just happened it is 4 bars later. It’s gone by. Forget it, think forward try not to do it the next time!  Or…. Do it again  (The mistake) and pretend you meant to do it the first time!

What advice would you give to our young students who want to pursue a career in music?

Learn your instrument, then learn another, and learn how to record yourself with the songs you have learned how to write by yourself or with a partner.  Then learn how to run your own business. It has changed so much from the “old record company days”. Young artists just have to be self sufficient in every aspect because there simply isn’t enough capital to pay others to do it for you. So I will break it down to two words. Good Luck!

How often and for how long do you practice? What do you work on when you practice?

I practice as often as my schedule allows. I have a drum kit in my basement studio, which I use almost every day, for an hour or two. I don’t always have the time to practice that much, so I jump on the opportunities when I can or make time to do so before an upcoming tour or recording session. I work on chops, time and feel when practicing. Chance favors the prepared. I also play piano daily. It is my main melodic writing tool. I play guitar too, but not very well. Campfire chord guy!!

Is there any specific music or videos you would like to promote right now?

Not really pushing anything right now. My writing partner, Pat Kelly and I, have a side project called “Ambers Dragon”. We released a single in summer of 2015 entitled “This Time”.

Also a Headstones “12 inch” vinyl single came out in November 2015.  Side A “*uck it”, side B “ One By One”.

Are you working on anything new? Any plans for travelling, education, album or recordings?

I am working on many things, most of which I will choose not to talk about for now. I am very happy with the potential of those things and that is really exciting to me! 2016 is going to Rock! The one project that I am in and would like to mention is Groovestone. Groovestone is a “super group” of sorts featuring musicians that have played with some popular Canadian acts such as The Guess Who, Helix, Sass Jordan and Nelly Furtado to name a few. Have a look!

Any last thoughts, comments, suggestions?

I would like to say to all the youth that you have to follow your dreams! Don’t let anyone tell you can’t do it. It is up to you to make it happen no matter what it is you decide to do. Know one else can and will make it happen but you!! Be true to yourself and stay positive! Live the dream!

Thank you, Dale!

Next Week: Artist Spotlight for fans of metal. Chela Harper, bassist for White Empress, ex-Coal Chamber.

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